The foundation for Alexander Payne to become one of the top celebrated directors in Hollywood was set when he was in his mid-teens. When he was 14 years, his father won the customer loyalty competition run by Kraft Foods and was awarded a Super 8-mm film projector. He passed the film projector to him, allowing him to explore and experience all kinds of films from home. More than a decade later, this teenage experience would lead him to pursue a Master of Fine Arts degree from UCLA Film School and begin his career as a filmmaker. Here is a dissection of Payne’s filmmaking and authorship accomplishments.
The rise to the top
The first notable film made by Alexander Payne was his MFA thesis project, The Passion of Martin. It told the story of a love-struck photographer, and it quickly gained a lot of traction that led it to be screened to some of the industry’s top executives at the Sundance Film Festival. His talent was undeniable, which prompted Universal Pictures to present him with a production deal, which, unfortunately, didn’t materialize. This iconic filmmaker spent the next 5 years working behind the scenes on mid-level roles.
However, by 1996, Alexander Payne was ready to take his film career to a new height and worked with Jim Taylor on his debut mainstream film project, Citizen Ruth, released the same year. From this point on, the two would strike an outstanding working relationship and friendship that has birthed several films over the last two decades. Their 2004 film, Sideways, won them an Oscar, cementing their names as top-notch Hollywood filmmakers.
An outstanding authorship undertaking
The success of his Oscar-winning film, Sideways, inspired Payne to try his hand at authorship. In 2005, he published his first and only book written by him, The Sideways Guide to Wine and Life, co-authored by Jim Taylor. However, he went on to work with other writers to publish three more books. Leo Adam Big, a prolific reporter, penned Alexander Payne: His Journey in Film first edition in 2013. In 2016, he followed it up with the second edition. In 2014, Julie Levinson wrote another book on this prolific Hollywood director titled Alexander Payne Interviews, shining a light on his interviews throughout his career.